23andMe hopes to find a cure for Parkinson’s through data mining. Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological disorder that affects millions of people, and a cure is hard to find. The company collects gene samples from people who want to know their genetic lineage, which it then stores and uses for research. Along with submitting their gene users answer questions that allow researches to look into things that were previously too expensive. To properly do the the research 23andMe teamed up with Genentech for the analysis of data.
Which is why Genentech’s next step is to sequence the full genomes of 3,000 of 23andMe’s Parkinson’s patients. These volunteers have answered questions about their family history, how quickly their disease is progressing, what treatments they’ve tried and how well they’ve worked. By drilling down into all 3 billion base pairs, the pharma firm hopes to get past the most common traits of Parkinson’s—the ones that each exert a small effect to sum up to the heritability of the disease. Instead, they’re looking for those rare variants, which destroy more biological machinery than average, leaving a trail of rubble that’s easier to track.“ They’re the extreme breaks in the system,” says Rob Graham, a senior scientist in Genentech’s human genetics group, and coauthor on the Nature Genetics paper.
Here’s a neat idea: save the planet using the research and development practices used during the space race. The state-lead push for advanced science led to really fun things like cellphones and laser eye surgery. Imagine what we as a species could create if we had the same push into sustainability like we did during the race to the moon.
If markets left to themselves will continue to merely pump out “innovations” along certain pathways, then it is up to the state to play a more direct role in starting a “greentech” revolution. Mariana Mazzucato, in her book The Entrepreneurial State, argues that major advances in tech from the internet to nanotechnology to pharmaceuticals were born either directly from government research or because governments made the risky investments necessary for the private sector to act.
The good news is that not all money is the same, and those behind Mission Innovation and the Breakthrough Energy Coalition seem to have read Mazzucato. They explicitly reference “patient capital” which can reduce the risk of uncertain technological investments. There is no question this is a major step in the right direction.
Governments certainly need to price carbon, but they should also act as entrepreneurs and market-creators to kickstart innovation for the green growth of the future. If we are underspending on this by orders of magnitude, then doubling is not nearly enough.
The Experimental Lakes Area has suffered greatly from the Canadian government’s anti-science funding policies and has luckily been saved by the International Institute for Sustainable Development. To ensure that further damage can’t come from the ideologically-driven and anti-environment Conservative Party the ELA has turned to crowd funding to survive.
Last year, The Walrus magazine had a great article on the ELA and how beneficial it is to science and the planet.
You might have heard that the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) took it over the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) on April 1st. We are reaching out to the public to help make people feel is it “theirs” (and reduce reliance on government funding so it can’t be closed again due to changes in departmental policy)
From their Indiegogo page:
The ELA features a collection of 58 small lakes, as well as a facility with accommodations and laboratories. Since its establishment in 1968, ELA has become one of the world’s most influential freshwater research facilities. In part, this is because of the globally unique ability at ELA to undertake whole-ecosystem experiments.
There is nowhere else in the world that has the same potential to conduct this type of research and make such a positive impact on our world’s freshwater supplies.
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I love knowledge and it’s exciting that a meta-analysis in JAMA Internal Medicine has concluded that a vegetarian diet is perfect for decreasing blood pressure!Meta-analysis of research data is the assessment of a multiple research papers related to the same issue and sometimes the meta-analysis can disprove existing assumptions, in this case the meta-analysis confirms what many already thought!
Plus, researchers found that “the effect sizes are similar to those observed with commonly recommended lifestyle modifications, such as adoption of a low-sodium diet or a weight reduction of 5 kg, and are approximately half the magnitude of those observed with pharmaceutical therapy,” they wrote in the study. A weight reduction of 5 kilograms is equivalent to about 11 pounds.
Read more at Huffington Post.
This month Cancer Research UK released a game that helped scientists find a cure for cancer. It takes the obscure data that needs to be analyzed and translates that into a fun little game which can be played on Android or Apple devices. The aggregate data of players help scientists understand what’s going on in the body when someone is impacted by cancer.
The game’s ingenuity lies in its simplicity. Racking up the combined data crunching power of what we hope will be thousands of casual gamers will help our scientists spot the subtle patterns and peaks and troughs in the data, which correspond to DNA faults.
The power of Element Alpha is of course completely fictional, but the power of the data it represents could be exceptional. Our scientists will be trawling through the results as they come in and looking for crucial clues in the quest for new cancer treatments.
So what are you waiting for? Start collecting mysterious Element Alpha to help us solve the mystery of cancer sooner.
Thanks to Craig!